The Jags Trust, as indicated in the statement issued on Friday 05 July and updated on Monday 08 July following exchanges with PTFC Ltd, was subsequently approached by representatives of shareholders to discuss matters associated with the current and future operation of our Club. It should be noted at this stage, that while the current Board agreed to meet with the Trust, the CEO was at pains to point out that the Club has no shares and that it was not in discussions with any third party to sell them. He went on to refer to The Club’s statement earlier in the week, confirming that they were aware of all the speculation but not involved in any discussions. Finally, he suggested that, if we wanted information, the Club could not provide it and we should, as had already been our intention, speak with those associated with the potential change of ownership. A situation where the Board of a Football Club has no shareholding may not be unique, but it is certainly unusual and while the Jags Trust was aware of, and has long had concerns about, this situation, the CEO’s statement did put the value of discussions with the other party/parties at a higher premium. The Trust had further been aware of decisions taken by the Club in respect of terminating some positions and arguably weakening the infrastructure of PTFC, particularly in respect of financial controls and while prudence is admirable, there were concerns about whether or not some of these changes might, in fact, be false economies. Additionally, recent additions to the Board were considered curious and it was unclear what was being brought to the table. At this stage it must be stressed that utterly exempt from any criticism, implicit or explicit, of the operation of PTFC Ltd is Colin Weir. Colin, in the limited experience of the contact which representatives of the Trust have had with him, has impressed as a self-effacing, genuine individual who neither seeks the limelight nor grandiose titles but who – initially with Christine - has made a massive contribution to Partick Thistle which was, is and should continue to be respected. Since the rumours of a potential change of ownership first emerged, The Jags Trust has comprehensively researched the bona fides of those identified and a substantial document emerged from this process. The document explored (inter alia):
In the event of the change of ownership going ahead, it will be for the protagonists to put forward their plans for scrutiny by supporters but, on the basis of information available, The Trust came to the following conclusions:
• the perennial, and understandable fear of “asset stripping” was irrelevant in the context of this bid. The protagonists operate in the fiscal stratosphere when compared to the world we inhabit. Quite simply, the acquisition of a small area of polluted land, lying beside a canal and well below the water table, in the North-West of a city where brown field sites are available in abundance - makes no sense.
• For their business model to succeed, Thistle would have to succeed and not in the Championship! It follows, therefore, that returning to the Premiership where there is a degree of media exposure would be an essential, indeed minimal, prerequisite.
• In football, as in all sports, there are no guarantees, but you cannot stand still, and new ideas need to be tried. Hence the application of the Moneyball approach which will be measured by its success or otherwise in our game.
• In response to “Why Thistle?”, we identified several valid reasons: o The culture of football is ingrained in our country as one of the founders of the game and while we are currently punching well below our weight, there remains a reputational value which resonates within football o Though our lazy media may not like it, and our two neighbours will deny it, more people in Glasgow do not support Celtic and Rangers than do. Further, there are many parents who would be happy for their children to be associated with football but would not be sanguine about them being associated with some of the baggage which comes with supporting either.
There is an untapped reservoir of supporters for a Glasgow team offering a competitive side to follow. Not tens of thousands perhaps, but more than enough, when added to the core support, to sustain the infrastructure of a club whose playing resources were, at least partially, not reliant on generated income. o Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are few places in the world of football where you can get so much for so little, as you can in Scotland. This is not cynicism, it is pragmatism! Getting Barnsley, for example, into the Premiership, playing in Europe and providing a platform which offers global exposure to young players would be a multi-million pound project. In Scotland, by comparison, similar objectives could be achieved for far less. Many people will be rolling their eyes at our naivete in even suggesting the possibility of a team which escaped relegation to the third tier of Scottish Football by the skin of their teeth, aspiring to a reappearance on the European stage, but if we do not have dreams we have nothing but mediocrity….or worse!
• Nothing is without risk and while we have earlier in this statement acknowledged the vast contribution made by the philanthropic Thistle supporting Colin Weir, the people behind the proposed change of ownership are a very different breed. Unlike so many who emerge from the shadows (and usually disappear back into them very quickly) they do not claim to have dreamed of nothing else but owning Patrick Thistle since they were first capable of conscious thought. They are hard-headed business people, not accustomed to failure and driven by the idea of creating a ladder of success which will bring them financial gains only by bringing success to the clubs in their portfolio. Thistle constitutes one rung on their ladder, and honesty forces us to recognise that it is, if not the bottom rung, then pretty close to it. Some have expressed concerns about us being a “feeder club”. What are we now, indeed what is every club in Scotland, and we mean EVERY Club? We could have young players of great talent coming to our club. We could enjoy their performances in the knowledge that their stay might be brief before they moved on to a higher level. But that stay would enhance the status of our Club and potentially bring some of the success that has been enjoyed in recent years by the likes of Livingston, St Mirren, Inverness Caley Thistle, St Johnstone etc – clubs which are, or at least should be, our peers. Discussions with persons associated with the proposal confirmed the conclusions referred to above and there followed consideration of how best to take this forward and of addressing concerns regarding the actions of some current members of the Board and some of those associated with them. It is not possible to go into detail since not merely confidentiality, but also potentially litigious issues could be involved. For these reasons, and as a consequence of time pressures, it was not possible to consult with the membership and thus Office Bearers of the Jags Trust were faced with the options of either taking an informed decision based on what was and is perceived as being in the best interests of our Club, or washing our hands of the matter and sitting on the side-lines at the risk that a potential boost for Partick Thistle could founder as a consequence of our timidity. The Board of The Trust felt that to abrogate their responsibilities and do nothing would be to betray the spirit of Save The Jags which led to the Trust being established. Therefore, taking cognizance of our own processes of due diligence, and after direct discussions with accredited representatives of those involved in the proposed transfer of ownership, we concluded that the positives outweighed the negatives by a significant margin and that The Trust should support moves to progress the bid. Consequently, the Board of the Trust backed a move to alter the composition of the Board of PTFC Ltd by removing Ms Low and Messrs Smillie and Robertson. We further agreed to support the return to the Board of Messrs Beattie, Springford, Gilfillan, and the appointment of David Kelly who was for many years Financial Controller at the Club until the post was deleted earlier this year. Given that the Jags Trust’s shares cannot be traded, we will have no locus in any subsequent transactions which are matters between individual shareholders and the parties behind the potential change of ownership, but we will have a voice! 2 To those shareholders who seek “only” a return of their investment, and that is not intended as a pejorative label, it gives them something back for what they have put in. For those, and there are few in that number who do not merit inclusion in this category, whose commitment to Partick Thistle goes beyond the monetary value of their investment, and who demonstrated that at times of our greatest need, it appears to open doors to a better future for Thistle than any could have dared to anticipate. The “only” interest that the Jags Trust has in this matter is in how it will impact on our Club. Some will disagree with our actions, our conclusions and the way which they came about. None should question our motivation. In a time when environmentalists are hinting at their potential ultimate extinction, there are still quite a few elephants in the Firhill room. How, for example, would the new owners’ scheme be implemented in a post-Brexit country which had removed freedom of movement either by direct action, or as a consequence of a no deal scenario? Readers will recollect that, prior to this element of the single market, players coming to the UK needed to be of “proven international quality”. Remember the hoops that Thistle had to jump through to sign Quinton Jacobs before he ultimately was adjudged to have met this criterion? Given the background of those involved, however, one cannot imagine that such scenarios have not already been considered and solutions created to overcome their consequences. As previously stated, there are no guarantees in sport, but this bid appears to offer, at the very worst, nothing which could be regarded as inferior to what we already face in the season ahead. It addresses the long-standing issue of having a Board without a controlling or even a significant shareholding. It offers the potential for the recruitment of a playing squad which, in terms of quality, would be well beyond our means. The necessity to be in the Scottish Premiership as soon as possible would focus the minds of new owners and guarantee the resources which would make such an aspiration achievable, though never guaranteed. In essence, the bid appears to offer hope where there was very little and potential for progress at a rate which could not otherwise be envisaged.